Category Archives: environment

Gone with the Windrow: an independent cinema inspires a cup composting solution

Wells Film Centre is a three-screen independent cinema in Somerset, the South West of England. Serving refreshments is an enjoyable part of the customer experience, as well as a vital income stream for the cinema. Wells Film Centre has been serving hot and cold drinks using Vegware’s compostable cups and lids since May 2018 – read the full story here.

Cinema owner Sally Cooper was determined to compost the drinks waste. She was disappointed to hear from Vegware’s Environmental team that, as yet, there were no regular collections covering her area.

Vegware’s Green Britain double wall cups

Composting Vegware cups with garden waste

Until now, all UK catering waste had to go to one of two processes: in-vessel composting (IVC) or anaerobic digestion (AD). There are around 50 in-vessel composting (IVC) facilities, over a third of which accept used Vegware.

Happily, for Wells Film Centre and many businesses only serving drinks, not food, Vegware was working behind the scenes on a project which would open dialogue with 150+ extra composting sites, including one in Sally’s area. In July 2018, we gained official approval for the UK’s open windrow facilities to consider processing certified compostable hot and cold cups and cup lids.

Continue reading Gone with the Windrow: an independent cinema inspires a cup composting solution

UK regions with trade composting collections for Vegware clients

Here’s the latest list of UK regions with a regular trade waste collection for used Vegware, going to a Vegware-approved facility.

Our waste activism

  • In 2012, when our Environmental team started forging links with the waste sector, compostable packaging was only accepted in commercial waste collections in 2% of UK postcode districts.
  • We’re just an SME, but we now employ three Recycling Advisors to work proactively with clients and the waste sector, increasing the regions where our clients can have used Vegware collected. Read some of our case studies.
  • Our UK coverage is growing all the time. Here’s the percentage of the 3,111 UK postcode districts with a Vegware-approved trade waste collection:
    • 2% back in 2012 when we started our Environmental team
    • Up to 25% on 1st March 2019
    • Up to 27% on 19th March 2019
    • Now at 38% – updated on 9th May 2019

Continue reading UK regions with trade composting collections for Vegware clients

Local cafés champion new service to compost disposables

Three Yorkshire cafés lead a campaign to get local businesses to use a new waste collection service for used compostable Vegware disposables. Opposite Cafe, Laynes Espresso and North Star Coffee Shop are keen to start composting their used Vegware. In 6-8 weeks, the waste is turned into compost for use on Yorkshire fields.

The new service offers a composting solution for used Vegware and food waste from cafés, offices, schools and universities in Leeds, York and Harrogate and the surrounding region. Used Vegware is collected by Forge Recycling and taken to The Maltings waste facility, a modified anaerobic digestion plant with a composting phase, near Leeds. Forge Recycling are the only Yorkshire-based ‘total’ waste recycling company who can offer this service. Continue reading Local cafés champion new service to compost disposables

Trinidad and Tobago government ban Styrofoam packaging

Vegware welcomes news that the government of Trinidad and Tobago have approved a ban on polysterene foam products, such as Styrofoam, which will be implemented in 2019.

Banning Styrofoam imports

Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis says the importation of ‘Styrofoam’ products into the country will be banned. Local polystyrene manufacturers have been given time to make their products environmentally friendly.

Building on change

This builds on action taken in Tobago, where the Tobago House Assembly (THA) passed a motion to phase out polystyrene foam products.

The THA is currently working with the Castara Tourism Association to make the idyllic holiday destination Castara the first Styrofoam-free village in the country.

The Caribbean island of Dominica also implements a ban on Styrofoam cups and containers in 2019, as well as on plastic plates, cups, cutlery and straws.

Packaging tax

THA official Linford Beckles suggested there was also a need to address the tax on imported packaging. He said while there are currently, “No taxes on Styrofoam products coming into Trinidad and Tobago,” there are taxes on, “Environmentally friendly alternatives.”

Beckles said the THA is looking at two alternatives to replace the Styrofoam, one is bagasse-based and the other is corn-based.

Vegetarian Pelau box from Aunty Cathy’s Kitchen, Freeport who already use Vegware packaging

How Vegware can help

Our tableware and takeaway boxes are made from bagasse, reclaimed sugarcane, and make an excellent eco alternative to  polysterene foam . Vegware already supply several catering outlets in Trinidad and Tobago. We look forward to working with more restaurants, cafes and on-site catering in the switch to eco-friendly polysterene foam alternatives.

Bristol, Cheltenham & Worcester can compost!

Hello Bristol, Cheltenham and Worcester!

Close the Loop

Our new Close the Loop service collects clients’ used Vegware in Bristol, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Worcester, and the surrounding region – full list below. Our trade waste collection takes it for commercial composting to create high-grade compost in a matter of weeks. Read more here.

Composting your Vegware products

All our products are commercially compostable with food waste. Our Environmental team’s award-winning support includes consultancy, staff training, bespoke bin signage and communications for an easy transition to zero waste.

We now collect used Vegware in these areas:

  • BRISTOL: city centre, Redcliffe, Kingsdown, St Pauls, St Phillips, St Agnes, Bedminster, Southville, Bower Ashton, Totterdown, Windmill Hill, Brislington, Knowle, Knowle West, St Annes, Totterdown, Easton, St George, Whitehall, Redland, Montpelier, Westbury Park, Bishopston, Horfield, Filton, Clifton, Hotwells, Coombe Dingle, Sneyd Park, Stoke Bishop, Westbury on Trym, Henleaze, Brentry, Henbury, Southmead, Avonmouth, Shirehampton, Bedminster Down, Bishopsworth, Hartcliffe, Withywood, Hengrove, Stockwood, Whitchurch, Withywood, Hanham, Kingswood, Downend, Fishponds, Frenchay
  • NORTH SOMERSET: Portishead, Clevedon, Long Ashton, Backwell, Nailsea
  • SOUTH GLOUCESTERSHIRE: Bitton, Cadbury Heath, Warmley, Wick, Almondsbury, Bradley Stoke, Filton, Little Stoke, Patchway, Stoke Gifford, Alveston, Rudgeway, Thornbury, Frampton Cotterell, Winterbourne, Chipping Sodbury, Yate
  • GLOUCESTER, Berkeley, Cinderford, Newnham, Westbury-on-Severn, Blakeney, Lydney, Coleford, Lydbrook, Drybrook, Longhope, Mitcheldean, Ruardean, Dymock, Newent, Chipping Campden, Badminton
  • COTSWOLDS: Cirencester, Fairford, Lechlade and Tetbury
  • STROUD, Stonehouse, Dursley, Wotton-under-Edge, Nailsworth, Painswick
  • TEWKESBURY, Bredon, Cheltenham, Moreton-in-Marsh
  • WORCESTER, Malvern, Pershore, Evesham, Broadway, Droitwich

If you’d like to hear more about our composting collection, or just talk about plant-based packaging, get in touch!

Defra Resources and waste strategy announcement

You may have seen us on Sky News this morning (we’ll post a clip to the video when it’s available)!

Directors Joe and Lucy sorting products

We welcome today’s Defra Resources and waste strategy announcement – it’s a much-needed and ambitious set of policy goals, and we are pleased to see the Government recognise the role compostable materials can play in improving recycling and resource use. By 2025, all plastic packaging placed on the market should be recyclable, reusable or compostable.

By 2020, the central government estate will remove all single-use plastics; catering outlets at Westminster’s Parliamentary estate are one step ahead, already using and composting Vegware’s disposables, in conjunction with a range of measures to encourage reusable containers.

It’s great the Government plans to mandate food waste collections for householders and many businesses – this should bring England up to speed with the rest of the UK. The waste hierarchy on page 21 acknowledges that composting counts as recycling, and that anaerobic digestion is classed one step lower as ‘other recovery’. The UK’s in-vessel composting sector should be supported and developed as a practical solution to treat UK wastes, including certified compostable packaging. We welcome closer cooperation between anaerobic digestion and composting sectors, and see huge potential for composting as a practical solution for digestate and depackager run-off.

Extended Producer Responsibility, if the details are delivered correctly, can bring huge sustainability improvements to packaging and recycling. We already embed producer responsibility into our business. We have used 3,000 tonnes of recycled content in 2018, and our Environmental team has helped Vegware clients set up composting schemes since 2012. You can see our team’s most recent work on setting up composting solutions by clicking on these case studies: Platform at the Arches and University of the West of England.

The strategy calls out the important differences between ‘biodegradable’, ‘compostable’ and ‘oxo-degradable’ materials, and we will be contributing to Defra’s work to develop understanding in this area. All Vegware’s products meet existing international standards for compostability, EN13432 and ASTM D6400.

Compost Collective window sticker

Composting Collective – a collective solution for Vegware on the go

Vegware has launched the Composting Collective, a bring-back scheme to capture used takeaway Vegware for composting. The Composting Collective is a network of local cafes which accept Vegware packaging for composting.

More and more Vegware clients are composting disposables. Now, with our new Composting Collective, consumers can return their takeaway packaging to any bring-back bin for composting. Even if it was bought elsewhere.

Close the loop
Composting Collective window sticker

Consumers can spot sites by their Composting Collective window stickers and in-café posters. It’s a great way to encourage customers to visit other independent cafes – to return used Vegware, and to buy another coffee!

All Vegware packaging captured in the Composting Collective is sent for commercial composting. Under these ideal conditions, Vegware’s plant-based packaging breaks down in under 12 weeks, turning into quality compost – to return nutrients to UK soils and help new plants grow. All while supporting the UK’s circular economy.

To find a Composting Collective member, or to join in, see Composting Collective.

Vegware PLA polylactic acid NatureWorks pellets compostable biodegradable bioplastic plastic

All about PLA & CPLA – compostable bioplastics made from plant starches

At Vegware, we manufacture our catering disposables from a variety of plant-based materials. We use paper, board and pulp, but the big difference is that we don’t use conventional plastics.

Our cups still need to be leakproof, and our clients still want clear windows, so we use compostable bioplastics – compostable materials derived from plant sources.

Vegware biodegradable compostable PLA CPLA bioplastic compost plastic
A compostable lunch: PLA cold cups and portion pots, PLA linings in our hot cups, and CPLA coffee lids and cutlery

What is PLA?

PLA is a compostable bioplastic derived from plant sugars. PLA stands for polylactic acid. It can be made from any sugar, such as corn starch, cassava, sugar cane, or sugar beet. NatureWorks is the world’s largest producer of PLA, and a key partner to Vegware. Industrial corn is the primary source crop at the moment, but NatureWorks are working actively to diversify feedstocks, investigating other fibrous non-food crops, or even creating lactic acid from carbon dioxide or methane.

NatureWorks refer to their PLA under the Ingeo brand, and offer full information online on how it is made, and end of life options.

Vegware PLA compostable bioplastic biodegradable

How PLA is made

Corn plants are milled to extract the starch, in the form of glucose. The glucose is then fermented to produce lactic acid. Next up, a chemical process transforms the lactic acid into a polymer, which can be made into pellets, known in the industry as resin.

Just like a conventional plastic resin, the PLA pellets can be used in a variety of ways – extruded into a sheet or film, injection moulded, cast into sheets, or spun into fibres. PLA has a huge range of applications, but at Vegware we use it for:

  • PLA-coated board for paper cups and soup containers
  • Clear cold cups, salad containers, deli and portion pots, and lids for a variety of products
  • Clear windows in sandwich wedges, salad boxes and bags
Vegware PLA polylactic acid NatureWorks pellets compostable biodegradable bioplastic plastic
PLA pellets ready for a variety of uses

CPLA – crystallised PLA for higher heat use

PLA has a low melt point, so is best for cold use up to around 40ºC or 105ºF. Where more heat resistance is needed such as in cutlery, or lids for coffee or soup, we use a crystallised form. This involves adding chalk to the PLA to act as a catalyst, and then rapidly heating and cooling the PLA resin during production. The result is a product which is heat stable to 90ºC or 194ºF. Vegware’s CPLA products are still suitable for industrial composting, in either in-vessel or open windrow composting.

CPLA compostable plastic bioplastic biodegradable
CPLA is crystallised PLA, for hotter uses like coffee lids or cutlery

Corn for food, feed AND industrial uses

The industrial corn used to make NatureWorks Ingeo PLA is non-food-grade, so it is not competing with food for human consumption. The whole plant is harvested, and every part of it is used. The protein and starch have many different uses:

  • the plant-based proteins are used to make animal feed;
  • the starch has many industrial uses, including in airbags, corrugated cardboard, recycled paper, pharmaceuticals, condoms, oil refining and drilling…and making PLA.

Read more information on food and bioplastics from NatureWorks, the world’s largest producer of PLA.

Vegware PLA corn bioplastic plastic biodegradable compostable
All of the corn plant is used, creating animal feed and many industrial products

Sustainable growing practices

The corn plants are grown using sustainable farming practices, without excessive pesticides and water use. In the same way that FSC can prove the sustainability of timber production, NatureWorks has independent ISCC PLUS certification – more info here. This in-depth scheme demonstrates the sustainable growing practices for the plants used by NatureWorks to make PLA:

  1. No sourcing from land with high biodiversity, high carbon stock or from peatland (2008 as the reference year).
  2. Agricultural practices (fertilizer & pesticide use, storage, disposal, tillage practices, equipment calibration, irrigation)
  3. Environmental protection (protect natural vegetation & water courses, soil erosion, soil organic matter)
  4. Social sustainability (child labour, workers protection, labour condition, land rights, training, water rights)
  5. Greenhouse gas emissions on farm level.

Implementing this scheme has involved helping farmers to alter their growing practices for greater sustainability.

Vegware PLA bioplastic biodegradable compostable

PLA – which waste stream?

Vegware’s compostable catering disposables can biodegrade in under 12 weeks in commercial composting, which provides the perfect balance of microbes, moisture and warmth. Our Environmental team offer our clients unparalleled zero waste support – see point 2 in our Composting FAQ.

Where there is no access to industrial composting, used Vegware should be put in general waste. Vegware’s takeaway packaging is made from plants, not plastic, using lower carbon, renewable or recycled materials, and these sustainability benefits still apply no matter what happens to them after use.

  • Used Vegware should NOT be placed in standard recycling bins which collect paper, plastics and metals, as those materials go to a different type of sorting facility. Another reason is that food waste harms the quality of mechanical recycling – the same applies to any used foodservice disposables.
  • General waste goes to either incineration or landfill. If Vegware is incinerated, energy is produced. Incineration studies from NatureWorks, a key materials supplier of ours, show that their PLA bioplastic produces more heat than newspaper, wood or food waste; also that it produces no volatile gases and leaves little residue. Some in the waste sector prefer plant-based materials over conventional plastics as they give off fewer toxic gases.
  • In landfill, studies have shown that compostable packaging is inert and does not give off methane.
  • Please do not litter – compostable packaging is not expected to break down when discarded in the environment, and is not a solution to marine pollution.
  • Home composting conditions vary with the skill of the householder, so we don’t make any claims there, but there have been successful trials using hot compost bins.

Vegware PLA bioplastic biodegradable compostable plastic

PLA – not a threat to plastics recycling

Compared to conventional plastics, bioplastics currently represent a tiny fraction of packaging, so it is not currently economical to sort PLA from other waste streams. If there is a major increase in bioplastics volumes, then waste sorting facilities can be calibrated to recognise and sort bioplastics using near-infrared identification. As well as composting, PLA is suitable for mechanical recycling into new PLA, as practised by Looplife Polymers in Belgium.

Studies have shown that low levels of bioplastics do not harm plastics recycling. German and Italian researchers have found there was no reduction to quality, up to these levels:

  • Up to 3% PLA in post-consumer PP plastic recyclate (1)
  • Up to 10% PLA in PS plastic re-granulates (1)
  • Up to 1-2% PLA in recycled PET plastic short-spinning plant (2)
  • Up to 10% MaterBi in the recycling of PE plastic shopping bags (2)

This information comes from (1) the report PLA in the Waste Stream, a report initiated by the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture. And (2) from CONAI, the National Packaging Consortium of Italy: Working Group Biodegradable Packaging Recovery Project report, 2012.

We don’t encourage anyone to put PLA into plastics recycling, but these studies offer comfort to plastics reprocessors, who are understandably keen to maintain quality.

Bristol Vegware close the loop compost composting disposables single use plastic biodegradable collection waste recycling eco

Bristol launch party! Close the Loop & the Composting Collective

Hello Brizzle! Please join us on 8th November to celebrate the Bristol launch of Close the Loop, our composting collection. And the Composting Collective, a bring-back scheme for compostables on the go.

  • Learn how Bristol businesses can compost disposables
  • Q&A discussion on waste issues with other businesses
  • Hear how you can contribute to UK waste policy changes
  • Free event with tipples & veggie nibbles
  • Networking time

When: Thursday 8th November 2018, from 5:30 to 7:30pm. Content starts 5:40pm.

Where: Pacific Yoga, Ground Floor, The Brewhouse, Georges Square, Bath St, Bristol BS1 6LA

RSVP: All welcome, but spaces are limited, so register to guarantee your place.

Close the Loop – now in Bristol

Vegware is delighted to launch Close the Loop, its new Bristol composting collection service. This initiative will collect used Vegware takeaway packaging from Bristol businesses, for composting in under 12 weeks at Rose Hill Recycling, Gloucestershire.

Launched last year in Scotland, the award-winning Close the Loop composting collection is now available to businesses in Bristol, as well as Gloucester and Worcester. Bristol sites already using the collection service include UWE, the Wildscreen Festival, and Pacific Yoga.

Join us to celebrate, discuss waste issues affecting Bristol businesses, and hear about how you can give your input to forthcoming government waste policy.

The Composting Collective

This a new scheme launched responding to demand from Bristol’s independent cafés. Participating cafés display the Composting Collective window sticker inviting people to bring in used Vegware for their Close the Loop bin, even if it came from a different café. Collectively, Bristol cafés can then capture compostable disposables for composting. The scheme also aims to encourage people to visit independent cafés over large high-street chains.

Come along and ask all your waste questions. See you there!

vegware compost waste bpi fpi composting

New composting study shows value of compostable packaging as a feedstock

Results of a new six-phase study confirmed that compostable foodservice packaging can be effectively used as a feedstock in commercial composting facilities. The US-based testing showed that foodservice packaging performed as well as wood and other traditional feedstocks.

“Knowing that compostable foodservice packaging not only helps supply desirable food scraps to composters but can also reduce the amount of supplemental feedstocks composters must collect or source is a major benefit,” said Lynn Dyer, president of the US-based Foodservice Packaging.

“While the compostable packaging industry believed that these items had value to composting operations beyond diversion of food waste, there was little data to support this,” said Rhodes Yepsen, executive director of the Biodegradable Products Institute. “The goal of this study was to determine the impact a large volume of compostable foodservice items would have on the composting process, when compared to traditional compost inputs like yard trimmings, straw, wood shavings and grass.”

The Compost Manufacturing Alliance (CMA) conducted full scale parallel operational field tests at two commercial composting facilities in two different US locations. The test sites used two of the most common composting methods in the US: aerated static pile (ASP) and open windrow (OAW).

It was funded by the Foodservice Packaging Institute and the Biodegradable Products Institute, to understand compostable packaging’s real-life impact on composting.

And something interesting for the composting geeks out there… Here the UK, since the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak, catering waste has to be treated at In-Vessel Composting (IVC) or Anaerobic Digestion (AD) facilities to pasteurise any pathogens in animal by-products such as meat or bones. But the US does not have the same Animal By-Product Regulations as the UK, which means that Vegware’s compostable disposables can be composted in the US using methods typical of UK garden waste composting.